Manipur -the jewel land, shares its borders with Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram and Myanmar. Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru bestowed upon Manipur the sobriquet “Land of Jewel”. It indeed is a sparkling jewel, the glitter of which is refused to be dimmed by tempestuous tests by fire. Indian Viceroy, Lord Irwin even called the state as “Switzerland of India”. Manipur is home to a host of different fauna and flora species which are hard to find elsewhere.
The state’s claim to fame include its historic role during the Second World War, the hoisting of the flag of the Indian National Army at Moirang in 1944 by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, classical dance “Rasa Leela”, indigenous games and martial arts and Sangai (the brow antlered deer) and Siroy lily.
The hills of Manipur echo and reflect a different sound and sight. Its inhabitants can easily pass off as localities of Hong Kong or Bangkok but ironically invite a second look of curiosity in our national metros. Its own art forms and cultural expressions and ramifications distinctly showcase Manipur to the world.
Rasa Lila is the Manipuri classical dance form based on the legendary love of Lord Krishna and Radha and the devotion of Gopis to the Lord. The richness of the costume gives luster to the beauty of the art.
Nupa Pala (kartal cholom or Cymbal dance) is outcome of the Manipuri style of dance and music. It is normally performed by male artists using cymbals and wearing white pheijom (dhoti) and spherical turbans. They sing and dance to the rhythm of Pung (Mridunga).
Manipur is providing impetus to development of adventure sports in the region. The Manipur Mountaineering and Trekking Association, Manipur Adventure ad Allied Sports Institute and The Adventure Academy of Manipur offers courses and assistance in white water rafting and trekking.
Sagol Kangjei (Manipuri Polo) has been adapted and adopted by the International enthusiasts of the game as Polo and it is now played everywhere in the world. The world has accepted that the game of polo originated from Manipur.
Khong Kangjei (Manipuri Hockey) is also a very popular Manipuri outdoor game. The game is played with seven players on either side and each player is equipped with a bamboo stick about 4 ft in length and bent at the lower tip, just like the modern hockey sticks. With seven players on each side, this game is more robust than hockey and is a mixture of hockey, football, rugby and wrestling.
Mukna, the Manipuri version of wrestling is a must on the last closing day of the celebrations of the Lai Haraoba Festival. The opponents are matched for physical build and weight.
Yubi Lakpi (Manipuri Rugby) is played on the lush green turf of the Palace ground or at the Bijoy Govinda Temple ground. “Yubi” means coconut and “Lakpi” means snatching. Each side has seven players in the field that is about 45 x 18 m in area, one side of which forms the central portion of the goal line.
Kang is normally played on the well-polished floor of a big out-house. Fixed targets are hit with “Kang” which is a flat and oblong instrument made of either ivory or lac. Normally each team has 7 partners.
Hiyang Tannaba (Boat Race) is generally held in the month of November at Thangapat. The boats called Hiyang Hiren are regarded to be invested with spiritual powers and the game is associated with religious rites.
Thang-Ta and Sarit Saraat are the martial arts of Manipur. The indigenous martial-art forms were meant to hone one’s warfare skills. Recently the art has been recommended to be included in schools curriculum.
Some important festivals of Manipur are Yaosang (Holi) Cheiraoba (New Year), Ningol Chakouba, Kut, Kwak Jatra, Heikru Hidongba, Lai Haraoba, Lui-Ngai-Ni and Chumpha.
Major tourist attractions are Shree Shree Govindajee Temple, Khwairamband Bazaar (the world’s oldest market), Saheed Minar, World War II Cemetry, Manipur Zoological Garden, Singda Dam, Langthabal Palace, Khonghampat Orchidarium, Japanese War Memorial, Busnupur, Loktak Pat, Khongjom, Keibul Lamjao National Park, Ukhrul and Moreh.
Manipur is well connected with major Indian cities. The Imphal airport has daily airline services like Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, Air Deccan and Indigo. The nearest railhead is Dimapur in Nagaland. However, Guwahati Railway Station at Assam is preferred by most passengers due to modern amenities and daily bus services to Imphal.